Relative dating is the science of determining the relative order of past events without Prior to the discovery of radiometric dating in the early 20th century, which provided a means Geologists still use the following principles today as a means to provide information about geologic history and the timing of geologic events. There's no absolute age-dating method that works from orbit, and They are descriptions of how one rock or event is older or younger than another. Relative-age time periods are what make up the Geologic Time Scale. Although both relative age of radiometric dating, quantitative, not concern us the age of of strata, and absolute dating worksheet geologic events occurred.
7 Geologic Time – An Introduction to Geology
Of course, this only works for rocks that contain abundant fossils.
Relative and absolute ages in the histories of Earth and the Moon: The Geologic Time Scale
Conveniently, the vast majority of rocks exposed on the surface of Earth are less than a few hundred million years old, which corresponds to the time when there was abundant multicellular life here. Look closely at the Geologic Time Scale chartand you might notice that the first three columns don't even go back million years.
That last, pink Precambrian column, with its sparse list of epochal names, covers the first four billion years of Earth's history, more than three quarters of Earth's existence. Most Earth geologists don't talk about that much.
Paleontologists have used major appearances and disappearances of different kinds of fossils on Earth to divide Earth's history -- at least the part of it for which there are lots of fossils -- into lots of eras and periods and epochs. When you talk about something happening in the Precambrian or the Cenozoic or the Silurian or Eocene, you are talking about something that happened when a certain kind of fossil life was present.
Major boundaries in Earth's time scale happen when there were major extinction events that wiped certain kinds of fossils out of the fossil record. This is called the chronostratigraphic time scale -- that is, the division of time the "chrono-" part according to the relative position in the rock record that's "stratigraphy".
The science of paleontology, and its use for relative age dating, was well-established before the science of isotopic age-dating was developed. Nowadays, age-dating of rocks has established pretty precise numbers for the absolute ages of the boundaries between fossil assemblages, but there's still uncertainty in those numbers, even for Earth.
In fact, I have sitting in front of me on my desk a two-volume work on The Geologic Time Scalefully pages devoted to an eight-year effort to fine-tune the correlation between the relative time scale and the absolute time scale. The Geologic Time Scale is not light reading, but I think that every Earth or space scientist should have a copy in his or her library -- and make that the latest edition.
In the time since the previous geologic time scale was published inmost of the boundaries between Earth's various geologic ages have shifted by a million years or so, and one of them the Carnian-Norian boundary within the late Triassic epoch has shifted by 12 million years.
With this kind of uncertainty, Felix Gradstein, editor of the Geologic Time Scale, suggests that we should stick with relative age terms when describing when things happened in Earth's history emphasis mine: For clarity and precision in international communication, the rock record of Earth's history is subdivided into a "chronostratigraphic" scale of standardized global stratigraphic units, such as "Devonian", "Miocene", "Zigzagiceras zigzag ammonite zone", or "polarity Chron C25r".
Unlike the continuous ticking clock of the "chronometric" scale measured in years before the year ADthe chronostratigraphic scale is based on relative time units in which global reference points at boundary stratotypes define the limits of the main formalized units, such as "Permian".
The chronostratigraphic scale is an agreed convention, whereas its calibration to linear time is a matter for discovery or estimation. We can all agree to the extent that scientists agree on anything to the fossil-derived scale, but its correspondence to numbers is a "calibration" process, and we must either make new discoveries to improve that calibration, or estimate as best we can based on the data we have already.
To show you how this calibration changes with time, here's a graphic developed from the previous version of The Geologic Time Scale, comparing the absolute ages of the beginning and end of the various periods of the Paleozoic era between and I tip my hat to Chuck Magee for the pointer to this graphic.
Fossils give us this global chronostratigraphic time scale on Earth. On other solid-surfaced worlds -- which I'll call "planets" for brevity, even though I'm including moons and asteroids -- we haven't yet found a single fossil. Something else must serve to establish a relative time sequence. That something else is impact craters.
Earth is an unusual planet in that it doesn't have very many impact craters -- they've mostly been obliterated by active geology. Venus, Io, Europa, Titan, and Triton have a similar problem. On almost all the other solid-surfaced planets in the solar system, impact craters are everywhere.
The Moon, in particular, is saturated with them. We use craters to establish relative age dates in two ways. If an impact event was large enough, its effects were global in reach.
For example, the Imbrium impact basin on the Moon spread ejecta all over the place. Any surface that has Imbrium ejecta lying on top of it is older than Imbrium.
Any craters or lava flows that happened inside the Imbrium basin or on top of Imbrium ejecta are younger than Imbrium. Imbrium is therefore a stratigraphic marker -- something we can use to divide the chronostratigraphic history of the Moon. Apollo 15 site is inside the unit and the Apollo 17 landing site is just outside the boundary. There are some uncertainties in the positions of the boundaries of the units. The other way we use craters to age-date surfaces is simply to count the craters.
At its simplest, surfaces with more craters have been exposed to space for longer, so are older, than surfaces with fewer craters. Of course the real world is never quite so simple. There are several different ways to destroy smaller craters while preserving larger craters, for example.
Despite problems, the method works really, really well. Most often, the events that we are age-dating on planets are related to impacts or volcanism. Volcanoes can spew out large lava deposits that cover up old cratered surfaces, obliterating the cratering record and resetting the crater-age clock.
When lava flows overlap, it's not too hard to use the law of superposition to tell which one is older and which one is younger. If they don't overlap, we can use crater counting to figure out which one is older and which one is younger. Apply relative dating principles to a block diagram and interpret the sequence of geologic events.
Explain what an isotope is and what alpha decay, beta decay, and electron capture are as mechanisms of radioactive decay.
Describe how radio-isotopic dating is accomplished and list four key isotopes used for doing it. Explain how carbon is formed in the atmosphere and how it is used in dating recent events. Explain how scientists know the numeric age of the Earth and other events in Earth history. Explain how sedimentary sequences can be dated using radio-isotope and other techniques. What is a fossil? Describe ways by which fossils are preserved. Outline how natural selection takes place as a mechanism of evolution.
Relative Vs. Absolute Dating: The Ultimate Face-off
Explain what stratigraphic correlation is and how rocks are correlated regionally and over wide geographic distances. Know the eras and periods of the geologic time scale and explain the purpose behind its divisions. Explain the relation between time units and corresponding rock units period and system, epoch and series, age and stage.
Working out Earth history depended on realizing some key principles of relative time. The figure in section 7. Using this time scale as a calendar, all events of Earth history can be placed in order without ever knowing the numerical age. The principles of relative time are simple, even obvious now, but were not generally accepted by scholars until the Scientific Revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries.
James Hutton realized that geologic processes are slow and his ideas on uniformitarianism i. This section discusses the principles of relative time that are used in all of geology but especially useful in stratigraphy. Lower strata are older than those lying on top of them. In an otherwise undisturbed sequence of sedimentary strata rock layersthe layers on the bottom are the oldest and the layers above are younger.
Principle of Original Horizontality: This holds true except for the margins of basins, where the strata can slope slightly downward into the basin.
Lateral continuity Principle of Lateral Continuity: Of course, all strata eventually end, either by hitting a geographic barrier or by a depositional process being too far from its source, either a sediment source or a volcano.
Strata that are subsequently by cut by a canyon remain continuous on either side of the canyon. Dark dike cutting across older rocks, the lighter of which is younger than the grey rock. Principle of Cross-Cutting Relationships: When one rock formation contains pieces or inclusions of another rock, the included rock is older than the host rock. Fossil succession showing correlation among strata.
During sediment transport, exposure to sunlight 'zeros' the luminescence signal. Upon burial, the sediment accumulates a luminescence signal as natural ambient radiation gradually ionises the mineral grains. Careful sampling under dark conditions allows the sediment to be exposed to artificial light in the laboratory which releases the OSL signal. The amount of luminescence released is used to calculate the equivalent dose De that the sediment has acquired since deposition, which can be used in combination with the dose rate Dr to calculate the age.
Dendrochronology The growth rings of a tree at Bristol ZooEngland. Each ring represents one year; the outside rings, near the bark, are the youngest. Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating is the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree rings, also known as growth rings.
Dendrochronology can date the time at which tree rings were formed, in many types of wood, to the exact calendar year. Dendrochronology has three main areas of application: In some areas of the world, it is possible to date wood back a few thousand years, or even many thousands.
Currently, the maximum for fully anchored chronologies is a little over 11, years from present.